Friday, December 13, 2019

“Why, It’s Old Fezziwig!” | Jim Carrey (2009)


Robert Zemeckis continues to play a lot with the animated format. Sometimes that's good and sometimes... not so much. We see both in this scene.

The transition from the previous scene is great. The Ghost takes Scrooge's hand in the schoolroom and they zoom down the long room, through a large opening that was a painting of London a minute ago, and into the actual London. They soar over the icy Thames, under bridges, then to shore and through gaslit streets until they arrive at Fezziwig's warehouse in a quiet, industrial part of town.

Scrooge is overjoyed to see it again. He gives a deep chuckle as he recalls that he was apprenticed there. Jim Carrey's Scrooge is well on his way to transforming. He's been deeply affected by the ghosts so far, going from frightened to humbled and now - even as he gets used to this one - still respectful.

The scene changes around them and they're inside the warehouse. Fezziwig (played by Bob Hoskins) is jolly and fat, wears a powdered wig, and sits atop a ridiculously high ladder at a ridiculously high desk. I say, "ridiculous," but that's a good thing. Fezziwig should be ridiculous.

He calls Young Scrooge and Dick Wilkins by name, leading Old Scrooge to reminisce about Dick's attachment to him. There's nothing but fondness and happy memories when he talks about Dick. There's nothing about "poor Dick" and Scrooge clearly reciprocates the attachment. As he's talking, his young self and Dick are laughing with Fezziwig and trading playful punches with each other.

Fezziwig orders the shop closed and we see Young Scrooge and Dick cheerfully clear aside tables (passing through the ethereal Old Scrooge with one of them). The scene transitions to the party before they get to any shutters, though.

The fiddler's on the desk at the party and I like the sound of stomping feet to add percussion to the dance music. Unnamed guests (no explicit mention of any of their relationships to Fezziwig, either) twirl on the edges of the dance floor, but the center is reserved for Fezziwig and his wife. This is where I think Zemeckis goes overboard on the animation. Earlier he had Fezziwig dismount from his desk with an acrobatic flourish that seems unlikely for a man in Fezziwig's shape, but it was fairly easy to pass that by. Now though, the Fezziwigs positively defy gravity with the hang times of their jumps. It's a bit much even though it's all for laughs and ultimately punctuated by the fiddler falling off his perch and into the punch bowl.

Fezziwig boisterously announces the next dance: "Sir Roger de Coverley." Young Scrooge is as pleased as everyone else by it. Old Scrooge looks crestfallen. He knows what's about to happen. Belle is definitely in this scene.

She turns up as Scrooge's dance partner in the "Sir Roger" and frankly it's hard to tell if this is their first meeting or not. She's smiling warmly at him, but that could be polite dance etiquette or genuine fondness. He's captivated by her, but that could either be Love at First Sight or maybe he's just that smitten every time he's around her. I think it's probably their first meeting as that better explains why Old Scrooge immediately recognized the moment and had a strong reaction to it before it even happened.

Belle and Young Scrooge don't talk at all in this scene. It's all about beautiful, swelling strings and soaring emotions and time standing still while they're in each other's company. It really sells that Scrooge is falling in love. Belle is too elegant to reciprocate in any obvious way, which is too bad. It succeeds at developing Scrooge, but misses the opportunity to make Belle more than just a plot device. We'll see if the next scene does better.

Old Scrooge and the Ghost don't talk at all during this point. Scrooge just looks on sadly at the dancers and then the room grows dark and changes to Scrooge's office for the next scene. That means there's no attack on Fezziwig by the ghost or defense of him by Scrooge. And no connecting Fezziwig's treatment of his employees with Scrooge's treatment of Bob Cratchit. Even though Zemeckis included more of Fezziwig than Rankin-Bass did, he is - like they were - more concerned with introducing Belle and setting up the doomed romance.

1 comment:

Caffeinated Joe said...

Not one I have revisited. Just not my cup of tea.

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